Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Art of QSLing...from a Listener/Broadcaster's Perspective

While I've been in the DX hobby since 1981, I spent 22 years in the broadcast industry, mainly in non-commercial and not-for-profit broadcasting. During those 22 years, I took some breaks to work in non-broadcast occupations. Having been on both ends of the QSL equation, I'd like to offer my 45 cents on the art of QSLing.

From the DXer's perspective, each new QSL is exciting. Whether it be that first one from WWV or the latest one from Family Radio via Ascension Island, I found each new QSL to be exciting. When it came from an international broadcaster, it's usually a QSL card. Sometimes, it would feature the country's flag and the station's coverage area. There are others that show the major landmarks of a given country. Domestic broadcasters, especially on AM and FM, more often send letters of verification than QSL cards. A few of the most powerful AM stations in the U.S., along with many around the world still send out QSL cards, although I've gotten a few from FM stations, and even a handful from TV stations in the U.S. and Canada. From my experience as a DXer, I learned all about putting together program details, from something as simple as a station identification to the subject of the discussion that was airing. Mentioning some subjects or names that the announcers were talking about is very helpful in getting that QSL card or letter. A long list of songs played is not as helpful, although the type of music played will also help you get that QSL. For example, it's best to simply put "Classical music" in the program details if the station isn't playing a piece familiar to you, although you might mention if the station had a segment devoted to a single composer. For example, such a description could be "Classical music, featuring selections by Beethoven." Many broadcasters, especially AM, FM and TV stations, require program details for a QSL, although there may be some exceptions. One example in my experience was getting a QSL card from WLIO 35 Lima, OH for a report in WTFDA's VHF-UHF Digest. The QSL card below is the first one I received, for an October 1981 reception of WWV on 10 MHz.

From the perspective of the broadcaster, the art of QSLing is something worth teaching to a station manager or engineer. When I was working at WFTD 1080 Marietta, GA in the late '80s and early '90s, Rocky Payne was my boss. At the time, WFTD was a Christian radio ministry owned by Pneuma, Inc. (pneuma is Greek for "spirit"; in this case, the Holy Spirit) and based at Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta. I was able to use my experience as a DXer to teach him the art of QSLing. As a 10,000-watt daytimer at the time, and even now, as a 50,000-watt daytimer under different ownership based in Gwinnett County, the station would naturally receive a number of reception reports from various parts of the country, especially for receptions at sunrise and sunset. In 1993, I was able to hear WFTD sign on at 0645 CST.  I wrote the verification form letter. Here's the verification letter from WFTD.

I've even been the signer for a small number of verification letters over the years, mainly during the nine years I was at WSIE 88.7 Edwardsville, IL. Many of the reports I got were of listeners in mobile applications hearing WSIE's signal, such as a listener who pulled in the station while driving on the New York State Thruway in western New York. Several of my fellow DXers have signed far more QSLs as I have, most notable being Tom Bryant when he was at WSM Nashville and Jerry Starr when he was working in radio in Youngstown, OH. A number of DXers serve as QSL managers today; most notably Patrick Martin, who serves as QSL Manager ("Reception Manager", as he calls it) for KGED 1680 Fresno, CA. There are also radio clubs that act as QSL managers, such as the Ontario DX Association for numerous stations in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. I even volunteered to be QSL Manager for the Buddy Tucker Evangelistic Association's stations, but was rebuffed by Brother Tucker himself.

The majority of QSL signers for AM, FM and TV stations are the engineers, whether he or she is a full-time engineer or a contract engineer. Station managers, such as a General Manager, Operations Manager, Sales Manager or Program Director, have also signed their fair share of verification requests. I even have a few verification letters in my collection that were signed by those who write ad copy for the station. The verification letters I signed at WSIE was in my position as Public Service Director. The art of QSLing is an art that all station managers, regardless of how big or small they are, should learn. It can be a helpful tool in strengthening the station's relationship, not only with distant listeners, but also with listeners closer to the station. Having been on both ends of the equation, being both the recipient of the QSL and the QSL signer is a great feeling for me, even three years after I retired from the broadcast business (which wasn't my choice).

No comments:

Post a Comment